I’ve been thinking about the idea of minimalism and the practice of frugality.
Having recently made the decision to avoid keeping things “just in case,” I’m still trying to work out the kinks in my new approach to keeping things. But, I was raised to not waste useful things and I spent a decade being a poor student, so sometimes I have a hard time getting rid of things that might be useful.
Minimalism vs. frugality are opposites and yet the same. Both promote the idea of reducing waste and the idea of being more conscientious about how we consume and about what we do with what we have. But, one focuses on the idea of keeping useful things or buying extras if something’s on sale, while the other focuses on getting rid of anything you don’t need right now and only buying what you need as you need it.
Frugality is all about thriftiness – reducing wastefulness and focusing on saving money. Some people take this to the money saving or preparedness extremes by buying multiples of things that are on sale without always thinking about whether or not the items are actually needed. Or, even if the time they took to get the coupons/sales was worth it.
Minimalism, also known as simple living, is all about voluntarily reducing possessions, refraining from consumerism, and focusing on a more intentional way of living. Some take this to extreme and almost seem to be competing to see who can own the least amount of stuff. Worse, there are some people who are so dedicated to only owning what is needed right now that they throw away things that will have to be repurchased later.
There are a lot of people who approach these ideas carefully and have been able to apply them to their lives without going to extremes. And, though they seem very different, you can be frugal and minimalist at the same time. The key is to be thoughtful – don’t blindly do something because a lifestyle philosophy tells you to do it. Instead, consider the best option for your needs and values.
As part of my efforts to embrace a simple living lifestyle, I decided to get rid of as many “just in case” items as possible. Because of this, I have a whole lot of empty boxes that used to hold extra blankets, supplies for crafts I abandoned, kitchen things I never used, etc. From a minimalist perspective, I should get rid of these boxes as I don’t need them right now. But, as someone trying to live frugally, I’m going to keep most of them because they’re an appropriate size for moving and I have an empty closet where they can be stored.
Another example would be buying sale items with consideration. I love peanut butter, but I don’t eat enough of it to be able to store a back-up bottle – by the time I open it, it will be expired (I prefer natural peanut butter, which has a shorter shelf life). But, toilet paper doesn’t go bad, so if I happen to notice that it’s on sale, I will happily buy as much as I have room for to save money in the long term.
It’s all about balance and recognizing that you don’t have to commit 100% to any particular lifestyle.
I know, I know. Many people tell you that you aren’t a real [insert label here] unless you commit 100%. Yes, there are some communities that require full devotion to their ideas before they’ll let you be accepted, but maybe you don’t need them. Instead, have the courage to live the best life you can, even if that means that you’re not “perfect” or don’t belong to a stringent community of fellow devotees.
By allowing myself to dissect new ideas and consider what I do or do not agree with, I’ve found that many things I’ve chosen to do have common themes and complement each other (for example: practices from both the minimalist and the frugal lifestyle are doing a wonderful job of helping me be a bit more environmentally friendly).
Just focus on being conformable with your choices and allowing yourself to grow and move towards your ideal over time.